Is It Really Working? Timing and Animatics
The notion of timing may seem a bit abstract at this point. I mean, how can you nail timing on a bunch of static cards? Allow me to explain and emphasize that timing is one of the most important details you’ll need to solidify in your storyboarding process. Imagine the horror of the following situation: You are pitching a final board to a client of a 30-second motion graphics advertisement to discover when you test out the dialogue it is timing out to two minutes long! There is no amount of charm that can ease you out of that pickle. To avoid such a conundrum, you must work to establish the timing of your project during your storyboarding process.
First step in doing this is to determine how long your whole piece must run, or the Total Running Time (TRT). Now, break your story into three to five chunks and establish how many seconds each one must be. Finally, time each scene using the dialogue and/or stage direction as a realistic guide. You may find that you have some trimming to do. You might even have to cut some beats that you love very much. Time to get brutal because you must hit those marks! Once you feel that the timing is worked out, pitch your storyboards again to an audience, this time with a stopwatch in hand.
The Magic Ingredients: Time and Sound
Still don’t trust your timing? Then take a step into the realm of computer animation by creating an animatic. An animatic is a video version of your storyboards laid out in sequence on an animation timeline with a soundtrack aligned. It allows you to see your storyboards (these static shots) come to life and get a true sense of how your story will time out.
To create an animatic, you’ll need to use a video-editing program. Many are affordable, some even free if you look around: iMovie, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, Final Cut Pro X, and Toon Boom all work well for creating an animatic. Plus, there’s a wealth of YouTube videos that can teach you how to make animatics with any of these programs.
Once you’ve downloaded one of these programs, scan and import your storyboards into it and lay them out on a timeline. If you have recorded dialogue, music, voiceover, or sound effects, import those as well and add them to your sequence. It’s going to take some tinkering to get this right, and it will always feel a bit awkward (after all, remember you are “animating” static shots), but do your best to create an honest timeline of your entire story.
Warning: You may be tempted to add new panels to your animatic, to give it more of an “animated feeling.” But if you are posing out walks, blinks, or camera fly-throughs, you’ve drifted into animating. We’re not ready for that yet, so pull back!
You’ll need (again) to bring out your most brutal internal editor. If a beat is too long, shorten it. If a beat seems expendable and you need the time, get rid of it. You might even find that you have too much time and be forced to create a new visual beat. Get to work on that immediately and realign your animatic with the new beat. Timing is the truth, and the truth will become crystal clear when you sequence it out on your animatic. This is where surprises and excuses vanish, because the animatic is your last and final chance to get your story right before taking the big leap into animation.
If you feel ready—I mean really ready—then let’s go forth!